A new reality dating series ‘Couple to Throuple’ seeks to normalize polyamorous relationships. Why its hosts say America is ready for it.

A new reality dating series 'Couple to Throuple' seeks to normalize polyamorous relationships. Why its hosts say America is ready for it.

A bold new reality dating show is bringing the complexities and joys of polyamorous relationships to mainstream audiences.

Now streaming on Peacock, Couple to Throuple follows four couples as “they experiment with bringing a third partner into their relationship,” according to a description of the series. Filmed at a remote tropical resort, each couple has the choice to either “stay or swap” each single as they date them one by one. Among the singles, there are four men and nine women. By the end of their time in paradise, couples must decide if they’re willing to invite a third person into the relationship, if they’re going home as a couple or if they are leaving separately.

It’s a departure from the traditional reality TV dating show format, but as the show’s host Scott Evans and its resident relationship expert Shamyra Howard tell Yahoo Entertainment, there’s a larger mission at play.


“Non-monogamy, in particular, has been growing in the U.S,” said Howard, a licensed sex therapist who works with contestants throughout their time on the show to equip them with helpful tools for navigating love, intimacy and trust with multiple partners. “People are being more free. They’re breaking away from a lot of the constructs we were taught about how to be in relation with people.”

As people learn to embrace “more expansive forms of love,” Evans told Yahoo Entertainment, he believes the show is arriving at exactly the right time.

“We’re ready to challenge the status quo,” he said. “We’re challenging not only what a dating show can be or has been, but also what a relationship can be.”

Modern polyamory

Polyamory is “the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time.” That’s different from polygamy, the practice of marrying multiple spouses, or an open relationship, which is which is more focused on sexual non-monogamy.

It’s more popular than you think, so much so that certain communities in Massachusetts have expanded domestic partnerships with more than two partners, with one city passing an ordinance banning discrimination against poly people.

In a March 2021 study by Kinsey Institute researchers, 10.7% of the nearly 3,500 single adults surveyed reported engaged in polyamory at some point in their life.

Similarly, a February 2023 YouGov poll asked 1,000 American adults to describe their ideal relationship on a scale of 0 to 6, with 0 representing “complete monogamy” and 6 representing “complete non-monogamy.” One-third (34%) described their preference as being something other than completely monogamous.

Among the open-minded singles on the show, there 9 women and 4 men, each of them vying for the interest of 4 couples that are willing to inviting a third into their relationship. (Paul Castillero/Peacock)

The cast of Peacock’s Couple to Throuple. (Paul Castillero/Peacock)

The modern incarnation of polyamory was popularized by the 1997 publication of The Ethical Slut, often referred to as the “poly bible.” Written by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton, who’ve been in a poly relationship together for over three decades, it’s now in its third print edition.

Easton told Yahoo Entertainment that polyamory today is different from what people might interpret traditional polyamory to resemble.

Whereas conventional poly people typically hold traditional views when it comes to relationships — long-term commitment with shared rules and responsibilities for all parties involved, for example — those who identify as poly today often see love and romance manifesting in a myriad ways.

“If I were [practicing] conventional polyamory, I’d be auditioning every partner for long-term commitment,” she explained. “That’s what you’re supposed to do if you go cruising in dance clubs, right? You go, ‘Is this person going to be safe to have a checking account with? Do they want to have children?’ But I mean, not everybody I meet, and love, I want to have children with.”

Easton and Hardy’s definition of polyamory acknowledges that emotional connection isn’t exclusive to one person, and can take various shapes and levels with or without the expectation of titles and long-term commitment.

“Stereotypical poly leans heavily on the idea of love, but that definition of love is very narrow,” Hardy told Yahoo Entertainment. “They talk about love as long-term commitment, as sharing a domicile, as all the things that married people do, except there’s more than two of them. Whereas we see love as much broader than that. It’s happened to us both many times, to feel love toward a one-night stand, to feel love towards someone you’re never going to see again.”

That’s where Couple to Throuple comes in, said Howard.

Learning about “ethical non-monogamy,” an umbrella term that emphasizes honesty, transparency, boundaries, respect and consent when engaging in multiple relationships, is something viewers have yet to see on mainstream television before.

“When people are able to see themselves, they say, ‘Oh, OK, that’s what I’m doing, or that’s what I want to do,’” said Howard. “When we see more examples, we say, ‘OK, it’s acceptable. We can do this.’”

“Consent had to be central to this experience, and also the understanding that consent can change,” Evans said. “Someone may be able to say, ‘Yes, I’m in, I’m down for this, I’m excited about it.’ And then also, ‘I’ve changed my mind.’”

That’s different from typical dating shows, which often focus on competition and pre-planned date nights, he explained, which is why he believes Couple to Throuple is groundbreaking not just for poly folks, but for anyone eager to learn about healthy boundaries.

“It wasn’t a matter of like, ‘Just because I’m here means I’m down to do whatever happens on the show,’” he said. “Consent was built into every single part of the experience.”

Redefining intimacy on mainstream TV

Evans said the show gives viewers a chance to learn how polyamory may or may not apply to their own lives — but breaking those emotional walls isn’t easy.

“It was a lot of emotional work,” he said. “Both the couples and the singles really dig in to what’s at stake here. It was about, are we better as a throuple? Could our dynamic be made better? Could our relationship be made better by welcoming someone else into it? It poses all of the complexity and challenges you would expect.”

The 4 couples on the show have the choice to either “Stay or Swap” each single as they date them one-by-one. By the end, they must choose if they're going home as a throuple, a couple or alone. (Peacock)

The couples featured in Couple to Throuple. (Peacock)

While the show has its share of hookups, it also showcases grief — the loss of one’s identity within their relationship, and how all parties gain clarity and self-ownership by exploring new chapters, new rules and new boundaries as a shared unit.

“We don’t realize that intimacy is all about being seen, being heard, being understood,” Howard said. “Couples and singles move through the intimacy of grief and loss, but there was another intimacy around curiosity for these couples. They remain curious, and they remain respectful of their partner’s experience as well. For me, that was the biggest part.”

Howard’s relationship sessions, which she leads through the duration of the show, get quite emotional for all involved. At the end of the day, she explained, “we wanted to show polyamory in a serious light because it is a serious and real relationship structure.”

The show may not be a role model for a “perfect poly relationship,” Evans admitted, but that’s exactly the point.

“It’s going to be messy because it’s true to life,” he said. “I really do believe our show reflects what would happen to anyone in this experience, and you’re going to see a little bit of everyone.”

The first three episodes of Couple to Throuple are now streaming on Peacock.